Check your list twice!

As we approach the holiday season, you might be concerned about how to feed holiday guests and add festive foods to your budget without going overboard.  Before you make your grocery list, check twice to make sure you can pay the bill.

Fortunately, many grocers offer festive foods at lower prices during this time of year.   If you are purchasing shelf-stable ingredients, you can buy them ahead of time, so your budget will not take a big hit all at once.  You can also set aside money each week to cover items that you will purchase closer to the holidays.

Saving money each week is not as difficult as you might think, look how easy it is to find money in a week:

  • Eating lunch out every working day costs $25 a week;
  • Two treats at the vending machine each work day, $10;
  • One trip through the fast food lane can cost a family more than $25.

Other ways to save for your celebration are to look for deals on holiday decorating items at thrift stores. Cloth napkins and tablecloths can be used more than once and might cost less than a throwaway. Look for recipes that are delicious, nutritious, and made with budget-minded ingredients.  USDA offers thousands of recipes on their What’s Cooking website Your EFNEP Cooking magazine and this website have lots of recipes, too!

Plan ahead to make your holidays fun, festive and budget-friendly.


Jayne is the Technology & Social Media Associate for EFNEP and SNAP-Ed


Build a Better Taco

My first taco that I ever tried was back in Austin, TX. It was instant love, and since then it has been on my go-to list of meals for the week.
Nothing beats tacos for a quick, tasty meal with serious flavor and tons of options. From hot to cool, dense to light, crunchy to creamy, the fillings and toppings give everyone something to love!
Today, I am sharing with you, my favorite twist to a regular taco recipe. I call it FESTIVE FISH TACOS. I use tilapia to make them, but you can choose Mahi Mahi or Cod. This recipe is a three-step recipe because I like homemade salsa and a slaw mix. So here it goes:


– Non-stick cooking spray
– 4 tilapia fillets
– Black pepper and paprika to taste
– 8- (6-inch) soft corn tortilla
– Slaw mix
– Salsa –      

1- Preheat the broiler in the oven. Adjust top rack to rest approximately 6 inches from broiler.
2- Line pan with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
3- Place filets on prepared pan and sprinkle with black pepper and paprika to taste
4- Broil filets for 6 minutes.
5- Meanwhile, wrap tortillas in damp paper towels and heat in microwave for 30 seconds.
6- Divide each filet in half. Place half of cooked filet in each tortilla.
7- Top with slaw mix and salsa.


– 1 mango                                                       – 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
– 1/ cup green pepper, finely chopped             – 11/2 teaspoons chili powder
– 1/4 cup cucumber, finely chopped                – 1 tablespoon lime juice
– 1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
– Mix all ingredients together and set aside.


– 2 cups cabbage, finely chopped          1 teaspoon chili powder
– 1/4 cup fat-free Ranch Dressing

– Mix all ingredients together and set aside.



Neha is a Special Programs Assistant for NC EFNEP

Nutrition Information per Serving:
Kcal:260, Total Fat: 4.5g, Saturated Fat:1g, Protein:24g

SOURCE: This recipe is taken from EFNEP, Cooking with EFNEP cookbook                 love-infographic/


Healthy eating on a budget!

Eating healthy on a budget can be really hard, especially if you’re paying for rent, gas, and other necessities. However, it can be done. The first step to successfully budgeting a healthy meal is to just create a game plan for your groceries. Research and look up tips for healthy, low-cost meals and master the skill of finding the best deals on items.

Shopping smart is the key to eating healthy on a budget. Realizing that the “unit price” is the better option for you can be beneficial in the long run. Reading each food label can also help make decisions easier when being mindful of healthiness. Each aisle of the grocery store has deals and discounts. Finding those will also benefit anyone on a budget. Preparing healthy meals can be easier by using kitchen timesavers. This makes it easier because you can make meals faster and more efficiently. Looking up new recipes to try can also help make things less complicated. Plus, this can bring a family together by introducing new things to meals.
There are plenty of budget-friendly recipes to choose, from a slow-cooked beef stew to summer chicken spring rolls; there are a variety of healthy recipes that factor in a budget. There are other options such as a grilled salmon, avocado salad and pesto chicken kabobs.

There are even tofu stir-fry options for those who are vegetarians. Making menus for every 2-weeks is also a budget-conscious habit that can save money and benefit health-wise. Keeping grocery and pantry staples lists are also great ideas in following a budget. Referring to the ChooseMyPlate model can also be informative on which food groups are needed in each meal. Utilizing your resources such as SNAP-ED and FNS can also help save money and accomplish healthy meal preparation.



Taylor is a student intern working with EFNEP at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Pitt County Center.



Heart healthy tips to keep your <3 humming!

Thinking about what to do on Valentine’s Day for those who hold a special place in your heart? Take a look at the suggestions found on the American Heart Association’s Website: . The site contains 14 practical and health conscious ideas that have more value and show a deeper love than a box of chocolates or a dozen roses ever could. The ideas are listed below. See what you think.
When you’ve finished reading, be creative! Come up with a 15th idea to show your Valentine he/she’s extra special. Enjoy the read! (Note: Hovering over the printed words or phrases in blue will take you to sites with additional ideas and information.)

  1. Rather than tempting your beloved with sweets, consider a gift that has more permanence. Search for a poem that describes your feelings and write it on beautiful paper for a handmade Valentine.
  2. Quality time is one of the most meaningful gifts. Bundle up and plan an active outing such as sledding, ice skating, gathering wood for a fire, or if you’re feeling adventurous, visit an indoor rock wall.
  3. If your kids are having a Valentine’s Day party at their school or day care, instead of sending candies, consider raisins, grapes, whole-grain pretzels, colored pencils or stickers as tokens of their friendly affection.
  4. Cooking at home is an excellent way to control what and how much you eat. Take a date to a local cooking class to practice your skills or learn a new technique.
  5. Prepare a romantic candlelit dinner at home using one of our heart-healthy recipes.
  6. Give to one another by giving back. Ask a date to volunteer with you at a local organization. Giving back is a healthy habit that can boost your mood and help beat stress.
  7. Use this day as an opportunity to tell your loved one how important they are to you, and share ways that you can support each other’s health and wellness. Get started by taking the My Life Check Assessment.
  8. Craving something sweet? Gift a beautiful fresh fruit basket to your loved one instead of giving sweets with added sugars.
  9. Sharing is caring – if you go out for a romantic dinner date, order one entrée to share. Many restaurant servings are enough for two – splitting will keep you from overdoing it.
  10. Don’t forget to love Fido, too! Give your pet a Valentine and remember to walk or exercise them daily –getting active with your pet will benefit your health and your bond with your pets.
  11. Take it slow – if you receive a luxurious box of chocolates from your sweetie, stick it in the freezer and enjoy in moderation over the next several weeks.
  12. Take a long, romantic walk with your beloved – and try to make it a regular habit. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week to help keep your heart healthy. You can reach this goal by walking briskly for at least 30 minutes five days each week.
  13. Check out our tips for healthier preparation methods for cooking.
  14. Rekindle an old flame – try preparing one of your sweetie’s favorite recipes in a healthier way. These healthy substitutions can help you cut down on saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium), and added sugars, while noticing little, if any, difference in taste.ENJOY!

Go Meatless for Good Health

Going meatless at least once a week can help improve your health. Red and processed meats, which is high in saturated fat, may increase your risk of developing chronic diseases. Try replacing meat with high fiber alternatives such as beans and lentils (among other foods). Visit for more information. Going meatless one day a week gives you a chance to explore new recipes. To help get you started, check out this vegetable chili recipe that is healthy and tasty.

Vegetable Chili Boat

Serves 6


2 1/2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup Fresh onion, peeled, diced
1/2 cup Fresh green bell pepper, seeded, diced
1/2 cup Canned low-sodium pinto beans, drained, rinsed
1/2 cup Canned low-sodium kidney beans, drained, rinsed
1 cup Canned low-sodium black beans, drained, rinsed
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 1/3 cups Canned low-sodium diced tomatoes
1 cup Low-sodium chicken stock
1 dash hot sauce (optional)
1/4 cup Canned low-sodium tomato paste
18 Low-sodium tortilla chips (about 3 oz)
1/4 cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (1 oz)
1/4 cup Low-fat mozzarella cheese, low moisture, part skim, shredded (1 oz)


1. Heat canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and green peppers. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add beans and stir to coat. Add chili powder. Stir. Cook for 1 minute for flavors to blend.

2. Add tomatoes, chicken stock, and hot sauce. Bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and mix well. Cook uncovered for an additional 10 minutes. Bring to a rolling boil for at least 15 seconds. Reduce heat to low and simmer to keep warm.

3. Combine cheddar and mozzarella cheeses (the cheese is a garnish).

4. Place ¾ cup chili in a bowl. Top with 3 chips and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon of cheese blend. Serve hot.


¾ cup provides:
Legume as Meat Alternate: 1 oz equivalent meat alternate, ¼ cup red/orange vegetable, and ¼ cup oz equivalent grains.
Legume as Vegetable: ¼ oz meat alternate, 1/8 cup legume vegetable, ¼ cup red/orange vegetable, 1/8 cup other vegetable, and ¼ oz equivalent grains.
Legume vegetable can be counted as either a meat alternate or as a legume vegetable but not as both simultaneously.


Happy Bean Day!

Today is National Bean Day. Beans (or legumes) are packed with vitamins, minerals, are an excellent source of protein, and low in fat. Additionally, beans are high in fiber. Research has shown that beans may lower blood sugar which helps in the management of type 2 diabetes. It also can lower bad cholesterol and triglycerides. For some, eating beans can cause uncomfortable gas. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to reduce the gaseous after effects.

beans legumes

-Soak your beans for 12 to 24 hours. This reduces a good amount of the indigestible part of the bean.

-Know your beans. Some beans, like adzuki, mung beans, lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas produce less gas than others. High gas producing beans include lima, pinto, whole soy beans, and navy beans.

-Add beans to your diet slowly so your body can get used to the fiber. Start off with small portions once or twice a week and slowly increase your intake.

-Chew your beans thoroughly to help break them down for digestion.

And finally, you can always take Beano or other gas busting tablets to reduce gas production.

So in honor of National Bean Day, prepare a bean dish today! You can find delicious recipes at the US Dry Bean Council website or the Bean Institute website.

One of my favorites (because it’s super easy) is the Breakfast Bean Burrito. See the recipe below.


Breakfast Bean Burrito

1 -10” flour tortilla, plain or whole wheat
3/4 cup canned, drained, and rinsed reduced sodium black or pinto beans
1 scrambled egg
¼ cup shredded Cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons of your favorite salsa

1. Lay the tortilla on a dinner plate.
2. Place the beans in the center, top with the scrambled egg, cheese and salsa.
3. Fold in the ends, and then roll up to form a burrito.
4. Microwave for 45-60 seconds.

Suggested Serving: Add additional salsa and/or plain, low-fat Greek yogurt for extra flavor and protein!